A Federal Communications Commission proposal to preempt state laws that harm municipal broadband projects are being made official this week, with Chairman Tom Wheeler circulating a draft decision to his fellow commissioners, The Washington Post reported today. The commissioners are expected to vote on the matter on February 26, the same day they are likely to vote for new net neutrality rules.
Municipal broadband operators in Tennessee and North Carolina petitioned the FCC to preempt state laws that prevent them from expanding to nearby communities that want Internet service. Wheeler plans to invoke the FCC’s authority to remove barriers that prevent broadband investment and competition.
The legal justification will likely have to face scrutiny in court. There is also the possibility of congressional action, with Republicans trying to gut the FCC’s authority and Democrats trying to overturn the state laws through legislation. But if the FCC succeeds, it could ultimately override laws in 19 states that protect private Internet providers from municipal competition.
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